On October 17, the Parrott Middle School Varsity Volleyball team was recognized at a Brooksville city council meeting for winning their district championship. This championship was the first in 10 years for the Leopards, and the squad accomplished this enroute to an undefeated season. Parrott Volleyball Head Coach Dena Frye, who has been coaching in the county for the last 25 years, led the program to their championship a decade ago in addition to this season’s victory.
“Obviously I’m very proud of them,” Coach Frye said. “It was really sweet for these girls to – not only did they go undefeated, they also won the county tournament… Last year they went undefeated in regular season and got knocked out in the semifinals. So, I think they were ready for revenge I guess would be the words.”
Despite only having three players returning from the prior season, they were all starters and “three of the best athletes in the school” according to Coach Frye. With the trio of eighth-graders Carly Grant, Lily Jernigan, and Alivia Miller, Parrott possessed the building blocks of a good team. With 50 percent of the starting roster accounted for, Coaches Frye and Kristi Jernigan had to get to work on developing the new arrivals to fill the other three starting positions as well as depth. Once the spots were filled and the regular season was behind them, it was time for the Leopards to exact their postseason redemption against the team that had eliminated them last year.
“We faced Explorer last year in the semi-finals and they knocked us out,” Coach Frye said. “So, we obviously practiced for them. They play a whole different style of ball than what we’re kind of used to. Now, I don’t want to put them down or anything, but they just kind of bump it over. They were doing that in the regular season and then they came around doing three hits and stuff. So, it was a good game. And we went three games.”
While high school volleyball plays best three sets out of five, middle school plays best two out of three. For the first time this season Parrott had been forced to a third set as all prior matches saw Coach Frye’s squad sweep the opposing team in two. The other two teams to play in the semi-finals were the Powell Panthers and two-seed Challenger. With the Challenger Chargers having dominated the county in middle school volleyball for the last 10 years and being highly seeded in the tournament, they were the clear favorites. Though Powell went on to pull the shocking upset to advance to the finals, that was not the only surprise of the postseason. Much to Parrott’s chagrin, they lost their starting setter, Lily Jernigan, a week before the finals. The eighth grader broke her arm competing at a travel softball tournament forcing Ayana Kincade into the starting role. Despite the change in lineup, the Leopards dug deep and defeated the Panthers in three sets to win the finals.
“We had to adjust real quick and throw another girl in there that’s never set before,” Coach Frye said. “So, that was Ayana Kincade, which she came in and did very well. Of course, Carly Grant’s my most valuable player. She’s MVP of the county, but kudos to Ayana for stepping up and being a setter that she’s never done and did well at it.”
Looking ahead to next season, Parrott will have to replace their whole team including the veteran trio that had returned from last year. All but one player will be moving up to Hernando High School. Alivia Miller will instead enroll at Springstead and Coach Frye will hope to lead her new squad to yet another championship.